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Owner Builder Permit | What is Involved in Being an Owner Builder | Is Being an Owner Builder For Me | Insurance | Planning
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Two areas must be tied together to allow the owner builder to competently plan and co-ordinate the building operations.

These are:

  1. The financial plan and budget; and

  2. The schedule of work activities logically sequenced to enable continuous performance until completion.


The problem for the owner builder in attempting to determine a final cost of his/her house is generally difficult as tenders for work are usually only called prior to the work activity being carried out.

Although a lot of estimates can be obtained at the planning stage, they all have life of between 30 and 90 days. So after this time, a percentage would have to be added.

This percentage may vary, again making a dollar figure hard to determine. Often a ball park figure is adopted but from experience ballpark figures can be notoriously rubbery. This presents the problem then of trying to work within a cast iron budget with an elastic program.

The principal objective when working with a finite amount of money (the budget) is to keep the brake on from day one; not to weaken and believe that savings made (or appearing to be made) on some activities can be immediately spent on other activities.

Remember - No savings have been made until the final overall figure has been calculated, i.e:

  • Amount borrowed - $72,000

  • Amount spent (house completed) - $69,272

  • Saving - $ 2,728

Do not be misled into thinking a saving has been made if one trade activity comes in under estimated cost.

  • Plumber (estimated cost including PC items) $4,700

  • Cheque to plumber $4,570
You have kept PC items under amount allowed and kept plumbing costs down. This is not a saving as such, as many more activities have to be undertaken and completed, and any one of these could blow out using up any small saving on previous activity.

Remember - Get receipts for all purchases relating to the house and make sure they are written onto the financial ledger. Without adding in these items you will tend to get a distorted picture of your costs and start to think that the house cost $1000 or more below the actual cost.

You will need to carefully plan where money will be spent, there are different areas which need financing make sure you budget money for each of these.

  • Labour cost for each different tradesperson

  • Materials for each activity

  • Cost of equipment whether hired or bought

  • Site Expenses (extra tools, fuel, lunches, unexpected specialists)

  • Insurances, loan payments

  • Cost of Authorities and paperwork processing

  • Your time

Schedule of Work Activities

This is not as difficult to achieve as it may at first appear, but should be set out allowing a reasonable gap between activities. This will then allow for some of the unexpected delays that can occur; subcontractors held up on other jobs, wet weather, unavailability of material or delays in delivery.

There are many reasons for delays - too numerous to itemise here - so by building in a small amount of time to allow for delays, hold ups, council inspections, etc - this time can be used by you for:

  • Quality control

  • Site housekeeping

  • Salvage or clean up of excess material

  • Reinstatement of site

  • Removal of rubbish

  • Planning updates

Remember You are the builder, so activities such as these will be your problem and from a safety aspect, avoiding accidents on site, and stopping vermin getting on site, will improve your status in the eyes of your new neighbours and give the Council and sub-contractors a good impression of you.

Setting out a Work Schedule

The aim is to set out the schedule of activities by estimating the number of days to be taken by each trade and sequencing the trades in the order they will follow on the job.

To begin with, list the trades required and estimate their time on the job separately. When this is completed, place the trades and their time on a bar chart/calendar. Finally, attach the value of their work to the bar chart to enable you to budget for the work.

This part of the plan will also indicate your cash flow required to keep the job going. Perhaps you might have to slow or delay the next activity to allow you to obtain, borrow or save the money for the following trade.

A schedule will allow you to attach both time and money value to work as it progresses. An example of a bar chart is provided here. Remember, there will be quite a few unseen or hidden expenses you may forget to include. These could be costs travelling to the job each day (for yourself), buying small items for trades that you forgot to itemise and add to the list.

Listing the Trades

This is normally achieved by working out how the house will be constructed and in what order the subcontractors will do the work. This list does not include the pre construction trades such as inspectors, engineers and surveyors.

  1. Excavator - clear site, dig footings

  2. Concreter - fix steel, pour concrete

  3. Bricklayer - subfloor walls to d.p.c height

  4. Termite treatment - pest spray

  5. Drainer - sewer and storm water lines

  6. Carpenter - bearers and joists, possibly flooring, frames and trusses, including facia. Install windows and door frames

  7. Plumber - rough out pipework

  8. Bricklayer - brickwork to walls

  9. Electrician - rough out wiring

  10. Roof tiler - sark and tile roof

  11. Roof plumber - valleys and rainwater gutters/downpipes

  12. Carpenter/joiner - internal door frames

  13. Plasterboard - fix plasterboard to ceilings and walls

  14. Carpenter/joiner - fix skirtings, architraves, doors, cupboards

  15. Wall and floor tiler - fix tiles to kitchen, bathroom, toilet, laundry

  16. Plumber - complete installation

  17. Electrician - complete installation and commission

  18. Gas supply -

  19. Painter and decorator -

  20. Other - blinds, flyscreens, security doors, carpet layer, landscaper, paver/concreter for paths/driveways.

Extra Things to Consider

It can be advantageous to arrange with one subcontractor to allow another part of the work to be completed off their scaffold. This can be done as follows:

  • Bricklayer has scaffold up to complete the walls: carpenter can have soffit cut and ready to fix and as soon bricklayer is finished, carpenter jumps up on scaffold to fit soffit.

  • Roof tiler generally works off ladders: roof plumbers might fit rainwater gutters also if bricklayers scaffold is available.

  • This system will only work if no hold ups are incurred and timetabling of work fits in.

  • Subcontractors also need to be on good terms.

As an owner builder you may be doing much of the work yourself, however you will often need another pair of hands, or more. Try not to stretch the time and money by doing difficult things by yourself, in the end you may not save either.

For important things, such as water proofing or termite protection, make sure the rules are followed exactly. Contractors may try to brush off the importance of small tasks but in the end it's your house and your money. A little extra time and care might save you a lot of heartache in a few years time.

Needless to say, care in planning will assist you to achieve your aim, a good quality house with a good finish to give you many years of service with minimum maintenance.

Owner Builder Permit | What is Involved in Being an Owner Builder | Is Being an Owner Builder For Me | Insurance | Planning
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